Geist, M.P.H., is founding Director of the Mary Jane Underwood Stryker Center
for Civic Engagement and co-Director of the Community and Global Health
concentration at Kalamazoo College.
She teaches a service-learning seminar, “Contemporary Issues in Public Health: An Introduction,” in which students work with community-based organizations and residents to illuminate and address local issues that in recent years have included black infant mortality, environmental racism, implementation of the Affordable Care Act, and nutrition and food justice.
Geist is interested in the intersections among issues of sustainability, public health, gender, and social justice, with a particular interest in food systems and women’s health. She lived in Morocco from 1983 – 89, where she worked in the High Atlas Mountains with village women and the Moroccan Ministry of Agriculture to conduct qualitative research on maternal and health, range fuels, cook stoves, and women’s and girls’ roles in livestock production. She was the first Morocco Director of the Near East Foundation (NEF).
Previously, Geist coordinated several NIMH-funded projects at the University of Michigan Institute for Social Research in the Center for Research on the Utilization of Scientific Knowledge. At The Health Institute at Tufts –New England Medical Center, she was Research Coordinator of a multidisciplinary, five-university qualitative study of Ethnicity and Well-Being. She has authored working papers, presentations, and publications on these topics, and, with Jeanne C. Marsh and Nathan Caplan, co-authored Rape and the Limits of Law Reform (Auburn House, 1982).
In 2013 she received the Spirit of Health Equity Award from Kalamazoo County Health and Community Services.
Geist grew up in Michigan, and she holds a BGS and an MPH from the University of Michigan.
Teresa Denton, M.S.W, is a long time member of the Kalamazoo community and is committed in her role as Associate Director of the Mary Jane Underwood Stryker Center for Civic Engagement to ensuring that the CCE’s community partnerships are authentic, reciprocal, and sustainable.
Prior to her work with K-12 and higher education, Denton worked in the child welfare field in Monroe, Grand Rapids and Kalamazoo. Denton began her involvement with Kalamazoo Public Schools (KPS) and Kalamazoo College in 1998 when the partnership between Kalamazoo College and Woodward School for Technology and Research began. She originally worked for Woodward coordinating partnerships with Kalamazoo College and Western Michigan University. With the establishment of the Center for Civic Engagement in 2001 she was hired by Kalamazoo College to grow and support the College’s community partnerships. She has worked for the last 18 years to develop and sustain connections within the city of Kalamazoo that build on community assets and offer opportunities for Kalamazoo College students to learn from and with the community, especially in the area of public education. With the announcement of the Kalamazoo Promise (https://www.kalamazoopromise.com)the CCE worked with grassroots efforts in the community to ensure all KPS students would be ready to take advantage of the Promise. One such initiative was Community Advocates for Parents and Students (CAPS), an academic enrichment program at Interfaith Homes Neighborhood Network Center. Denton was one of the founding board members of CAPS in 2005 and continues to serve on the board. Denton is also involved in the local food justice movement as chair of the Fair Food Matters board and member of the Kalamazoo Loaves and Fishes Advocacy committee.
Denton has called Michigan home for most of her life and she earned her MSW from the University of Michigan.
Moises Hernandez (he/him) graduated from Kalamazoo College in 2017 with a BA in Critical Ethnic Studies. During his time at K, Moises worked as one of our Civic Engagement Scholars (CES) with the Maple Street Magnet School program his sophomore year and as one of our CESs for the El Sol Elementary after-school program during his senior year.
During the summer of 2017, Moises worked as a Youth Development Worker (YDW) for the Think Summer! program through Communities In Schools (CIS) of Kalamazoo. Moises worked with elementary school children to review reading and math skills, improve financial literacy, participate in weekly field trips and co-facilitate afternoon clubs like Let’s Play Fair and Grossology.
Through his role as one of our Assistant Directors (previously Post-Baccalaureate Fellow), Moises has the primary responsibility of supporting our Civic Engagement Scholars and community partners for programs focused on educational equity. Moises is also responsible in co-facilitating reflections for the CESs to strengthen the programs they lead.
Assistant Director and K Votes
Emily Kowey graduated from Kalamazoo College in 2017 with a degree in Political Science, concentrating in Public Health and Public Policy.
Riley Gabriel (they/them) graduated from Kalamazoo College in 2021 with a BA in English. During their time at K, they worked closely with the Outdoor Programs Office holding positions over their four years as a LandSea intern, gear room worker, and Kalamazoo Outing Club Co-President. They also spent time working with both Residential Life as a resident assistant during their sophomore year and with the Office of Student Activities as a student event programmer during their senior year. Gabriel has a personal focus on environmental and gender-based social justice work. In February of 2020, they were on a team of Kalamazoo College students who planned and hosted the Midwest Outdoor Leadership Conference at the college.
Through their role as the Post-Baccalaureate Fellow, Riley is primarily responsible for the coordination and mentoring of our student Civic Engagement Scholars (CES). They are also responsible for facilitating reflections and workshops for the CESs throughout the year and ensuring all the programs they lead themselves are a success.
Paulette Rieger began working at Kalamazoo College in 1999 as Assistant to the Director of Health Sciences. In 2003 she started “Dance, Dance, Dance”, and began teaching and performing Latin and Ballroom dance throughout Southwest Michigan. She also served as Dance Director for the Allegan Area Arts Council during this time, teaching and choreographing ballet, tap, and hip hop as well as ballroom and Latin dance for stage productions and various events. Paulette returned to K in 2012 to act as Project and Event Coordinator for the Higher Learning Commission’s visit to campus and is currently working as Operations Manager for the Center for Civic Engagement (CCE). She enjoys working with CCE staff and students – helping to envision and plan the varied events and juggle the program logistics that embody service learning.